The Mighty Rourke
When I first met him he was laying the foundation for a small dynamo in the engine-room of the repair shop at Spike, and he was most unusually loud in his protestations and demands. He had with him a dozen Italians, all short, swarthy fellows of from twenty-five to fifty years of age, who were busy bringing material from a car that had been pushed in on the side-track next to the building. This was loaded with crushed stone, cement, old boards, wheelbarrows, tools, and the like, all of which were to be used in the labor that he was about to undertake. He himself was standing in the doorway of the shop where the work was to be conducted, coat off, sleeves rolled up, and shouting with true Irish insistence, "Come, Matt! Come, Jimmie! Get the shovels, now! Get the picks! Bring some sand here! Bring some stone! Where's the cement, now? Where's the cement? Jasus Christ! I must have some cement! What arre ye all doin'? What do ye think ye're up here fer? Hurry, now, hurry! Bring the cement!" and then, having concluded this amazing fanfare, calmly turning to gaze about as if he were the only one in the world who had the right to stand still.
More or less oppressed with life myself at the time, I was against all bosses, and particularly against so seemingly a vicious one as this. "What a slave driver!" I thought. "What a brute!" And yet I remember thinking that he was not exactly unpleasant to look at, either—quite the contrary. He was medium in height, thick of body and neck, with short gray hair and mustache, and bright, clear, twinkling Irish gray eyes, and he carried himself with an air of unquestionable authority. It was much as if he had said, "I am the boss here"; and, indeed, he was. Is it this that sends the Irish to rule as captains of hundreds the world over?
The job he was bossing was not very intricate or important, but it was interesting. It consisted of digging a trench ten by twelve feet, and shaping it up with boards into a "form," after which concrete was to be mixed and poured in, and some iron rods set to fasten the engine to—an engine bed, no less. It was not so urgent but that it might have been conducted with far less excitement, but what are you to do when you are naturally excitable, love to make a great noise, and feel that things are going forward whether they are or not? Plainly this particular individual loved noise and a great stir. So eager was he to have done with it, no matter what it was or where, that he was constantly trotting to and fro, shouting, "Come, Matt! Come, Jimmie! Hurry, now, bring the shovels! Bring the picks!" and occasionally bursting forth with a perfect avalanche of orders. "Up with it! Down with it! Front with it! Back with it! In with it! Out with it!" all coupled with his favorite expletive, "Jasus Christ," which was as innocent of evil, I subsequently came to know, as a prayer. In short, he was simply wild Irish, and that was all there was to him—a delightful specimen, like Namgay Doola.
But, as I say, at the time he seemed positively appalling to me, a virulent specimen, and I thought, "The Irish brute! To think of human beings having to work for a brute like that! To think of his driving men like that!" However, I soon began to discover that he was not so bad as he seemed, and then I began to like him.
The thing that brought about this swift change of feeling in me was the attitude of his men toward him. Although he was so insistent with his commands, they did not seem to mind nor to strain themselves working. They were not killing themselves, by any means. He would stand over them, crying, "Up with it! Up with it! Up with it! Up with it!" or "Down with it! Down with it! Down with it!" until you would have imagined their nerves would be worn to a frazzle. As it was, however, they did not seem to care any more than you would for the ticking of a clock; rather, they appeared to take it as a matter of course, something that had to be, and that one was prepared for. Their steps were in the main as leisurely as those of idlers on Fifth Avenue or Broadway. They carried boards or stone as one would objects of great value. One could not help smiling at the incongruity of it; it was farcical. Finally gathering the full import of it all, I ventured to laugh, and he turned on me with a sharp and yet not unkindly retort.
"Ha! ha! ha!" he mocked. "If ye had to work as hard as these min, ye wouldn't laugh."
Then I explained that I was not laughing at them but at him, and he took it all in good part. Since I was only a nominal laborer here, not a real one—permitted to work for my health, for twelve cents an hour—we fell to conversing upon railroad matters, and in this way our period of friendship began.
As I learned that morning, Rourke was the foreman-mason for minor tasks for all that part of the railroad that lay between New York and fifty miles out, on three divisions. He had a dozen or so men under him and was in possession of one car, which was shunted back and forth between the places in which he happened to be working. He was a builder of concrete platforms, culverts, coal-bins, sidewalks, bridge and building piers, and, in fact, anything that could be made out of crushed stone and cement, or bricks and stone, and he was sent here and there, as necessity required. As he explained to me at the time, he sometimes rose as early as four a.m. in order to get to his place of labor by seven. The great railroad company for which he toiled was no gentle master, and did not look upon his ease, or that of his men, as important. At the same time, as he himself confessed, he did not mind hard work—liked it, in short. He had been working now for the company for all of twenty-two years, "rain or shine." Darkness or storm made no difference to him. "Shewer, I have to be there," he observed once with his quizzical, elusive Irish grin. "They're not payin' me wages fer lyin' in bed. If ye was to get up that way yerself every day fer a year, me b'y," he added, eyeing my spare and none too well articulated frame, "it'd make a man av ye."
"Yes?" I said tolerantly. "And how much do you get, Rourke?"
"Two an' a half a day."
"You don't say!" I replied, pretending admiration.
The munificence of the corporation that paid him two and a half dollars a day for ten hours' work, as well as for superintending and constructing things of such importance, struck me forcibly. Perhaps, as we say in America, he "had a right" to be happy, only I could not see it. At the same time, I could not help thinking that he was better situated than myself at the time. I had been ill, and was now earning only twelve cents an hour for ten hours' work, and the sight of the foreman for whom I was working was a torture to my soul. He was such a loud-mouthed, blustering, red-headed ignoramus, and I wanted to get out from under him. At the same time, I was not without sufficient influence so to do, providing I could find a foreman who could make use of me. The great thing was to do this, and the more I eyed this particular specimen of foreman the better I liked him. He was genial, really kindly, amazingly simple and sincere. I decided to appeal to him to take me on his staff.
"How would you like to take me, Mr. Rourke, and let me work for you?" I asked hopefully, after explaining to him why I was here.
"Shewer," he replied. "Ye'd do fine."
"Would I have to work with the Italians?" I asked, wondering how I would make out with a pick and shovel. My frame was so spare at the time that the question must have amused him, considering the type of physique required for day labor.
"There'll be plenty av work fer ye to do without ever yer layin' a hand to a pick er shovel," he replied comfortingly. "Shewer, that's no work fer white min. Let the nagurs do it. Look at their backs an' arrms, an' then look at yers."
I was ready to blush for shame. These poor Italians whom I was so ready to contemn were immeasurably my physical superiors.
"But why do you call them negroes, Rourke?" I asked after a time. "They're not black."
"Well, bedad, they're not white, that's waan thing shewer," he added. "Aany man can tell that be lookin' at thim."
I had to smile. It was so dogmatic and unreasoning.
"Very well, then, they're black," I said, and we left the matter.
Not long after I put in a plea to be transferred to him, at his request, and it was granted. The day that I joined his flock, or gang, as he called it, he was at Williamsbridge, a little station north on the Harlem, building a concrete coal-bin. It was a pretty place, surrounded by trees and a grass-plot, a vast improvement upon a dark indoor shop, and seemed to me a veritable haven of rest. Ah, the smiling morning sun, the green leaves, the gentle fresh winds of heaven!
Rourke was down in an earthen excavation under the depot platform when I arrived, measuring and calculating with his plumb-bob and level, and when I looked in on him hopefully he looked up and smiled.
"So here ye arre at last," he said with a grin.
"Yes," I laughed.
"Well, ye're jist in time; I waant ye to go down to the ahffice."
"Certainly," I replied, but before I could say more he climbed out of his hole, his white jeans odorous of the new-turned earth, and fished in the pocket of an old gray coat which lay beside him for a soiled and crumpled letter, which he finally unfolded with his thick, clumsy fingers. Then he held it up and looked at it defiantly.
"I waant ye to go to Woodlawn," he continued, "an' look after some bolts that arre up there—there's a keg av thim—an' sign the bill fer thim, an' ship thim down to me. An' thin I waant ye to go down to the ahffice an' take thim this o.k." Here again he fished around and produced another crumpled slip, this time of a yellow color (how well I came to know them!), which I soon learned was an o.k. blank, a form which had to be filled in and signed for everything received, if no more than a stick of wood or a nail or a bolt. The company demanded these of all foremen, in order to keep its records straight. Its accounting department was useless without them. At the same time, Rourke kept talking of the "nonsinse av it," and the "onraisonableness" of demanding o.k.s for everything. "Ye'd think some one was goin' to sthale thim from thim," he declared irritably and defiantly.
I saw at once that some infraction of the railroad rules had occurred and that he had been "called down," or "jacked up" about it, as the railroad men expressed it. He was in a high state of dudgeon, and as defiant and pugnacious as his royal Irish temper would allow. At the same time he was pleased to think that I or some one had arrived who would relieve him of this damnable "nonsinse," or so he hoped. He was not so inexperienced as not to imagine that I could help him with all this. In fact, as time proved, this was my sole reason for being here.
He flung a parting shot at his superior as I departed.
"Tell him that I'll sign fer thim when I get thim, an' not before," he declared.
I went on my way, knowing full well that no such message was for delivery, and that he did not intend that it should be. It was just the Irish of it. I went off to Woodlawn and secured the bolts, after which I went down to the "ahffice" and reported. There I found the chief clerk, a mere slip of a dancing master in a high collar and attractive office suit, who was also in a high state of dudgeon because Rourke, as he now explained, had failed to render an o.k. for this and other things, and did not seem to understand that he, the chief clerk, must have them to make up his reports. Sometimes o.k.s did not come in for a month or more, the goods lying around somewhere until Rourke could use them. He wanted to know what explanation Rourke had to offer, and when I suggested that the latter thought, apparently, that he could leave all consignments of goods in one station or another until such time as he needed them before he o.k.ed for them, he fairly foamed.
"Say," he almost shouted, at the same time shoving his hands distractedly through his hair, "what does he think I am? How does he think I'm going to make up my books? He'll leave them there until he needs them, will he? Well, he's a damned fool, and you go back and tell him I said so. He's been long enough on the road to know better. You go back and tell him I said that I want a signed form for everything consigned to him the moment he learns that it's waiting for him, and I want it right away, without fail, whether it's a single nut or a car of sand. I want it. He's got to come to time about this now, or something's going to drop. I'm not going to stand it any longer. How does he think I'm going to make up my books? I wish he'd let you attend to these matters while you're up there. It will save an awful lot of trouble in this office and it may save him his job. There's one thing sure: he's got to come to time from now on, or either he quits or I do."
These same o.k.s plus about twenty-five long-drawn-out reports or calculations, retroactive and prospective, covering every possible detail of his work from the acknowledgment of all material received up to and including the expenditure of even so much as one mill's worth of paper, were the bane of my good foreman's life. As I learned afterward, he had nearly his whole family, at least a boy and two girls, assisting him nights on this part of the work. In addition, while they were absolutely of no import in so far as the actual work of construction was concerned—and that was really all that interested Rourke—they were an essential part of the system which made it possible for him to do the work at all—a point which he did not seem to be able to get clear. At the same time, there was an unsatisfactory side to this office technicalia, and it was this: If a man could only sit down and reel off a graphic account of all that he was doing, accompanied by facts and figures, he was in excellent standing with his superiors, no matter what his mechanical defects might be; whereas, if his reports were not clear, or were insufficient, the efficiency of his work might well be overlooked. In a vague way, Rourke sensed this and resented it. He knew that his work was as good as could be done, and yet here were these constant reports and o.k.s to irritate and delay him. Apparently they aided actual construction no whit—but, of course, they did. Although he was a better foreman than most, still, because of his lack of skill in this matter of accounting, he was looked upon as more or less a failure, especially by the chief clerk. Naturally, I explained that I would do my best, and came away.
When I returned, however, I decided to be politic. I could not very well work with a pick and shovel, and this was about all that was left outside of that. I therefore explained as best I could the sad plight of the chief clerk, who stood in danger of losing his job unless these things came in promptly.
"You see how it is, Rourke, don't you?" I pleaded.
He seemed to see, but he was still angry.
"An o.k. blank! An o.k. blank!" he echoed contentiously, but in a somewhat more conciliatory spirit. "He wants an o.k. blank, does he? Well, I expect ye might as well give thim to him, thin. I think the man lives on thim things, the way he's aalways caallin' fer thim. Ye'd think I was a bookkeeper an' foreman at the same time; it's somethin' aaful. An o.k. blank! An o.k. blank!" and he sputtered to silence.
A little while later he humorously explained that he had "clane forgot thim, anyhow."
The ensuing month was a busy one for us. We had a platform to lay at Morrisania, a chimney to build at Tarrytown, a sidewalk to lay at White Plains, and a large cistern to dig and wall in at Tuckahoe. Besides these, there were platforms to build at Van Cortlandt and Mount Kisco, water-towers at Highbridge and Ardsley, a sidewalk and drain at Caryl, a culvert and an ash-pit at Bronx Park, and some forty concrete piers for a building at Melrose—all of which required any amount of running and figuring, to say nothing of the actual work of superintending and constructing, which Rourke alone could look after. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time that any one doing all this hard practical labor should not be provided with a clerk or an accountant to take at least some of this endless figuring off his hands. At the same time, if he had been the least bit clever, he could have provided himself with one permanently by turning one of his so-called laborers into a clerk—carrying a clerk as a laborer—but plainly it had never occurred to him. He depended on his family. The preliminary labor alone of ordering and seeing that the material was duly shipped and unloaded was one man's work; and yet Rourke was expected to do it all.
In spite of all this, however, he displayed himself a masterful worker. I have never seen a better. He preferred to superintend, of course, to get down into the pit or up on the wall, and measure and direct. At the same time, when necessary to expedite a difficult task, he would toil for hours at a stretch with his trowel and his line and his level and his plumb-bob, getting the work into shape, and you would never hear a personal complaint from him concerning the weariness of labor. On the contrary, he would whistle and sing until something went wrong, when suddenly you would hear the most terrific uproar of words: "Come out av that! Come out, now! Jasus Christ, man, have ye no sinse at aall? Put it down! Put it down! What arre ye doin'? What did I tell ye? Have ye no raison in ye, no sinse, ye h'athen nagur?"
You would have imagined the most terrible calamity; and yet, all told, it might be nothing of any great import—a little error of some kind, more threatening than real, and soon adjusted. It might last for a few moments, during which time the Italians would be seen hurrying excitedly to and fro; and then there would come a lull, and Rourke would be heard to raise his voice in tuneful melody, singing or humming or whistling some old-fashioned Irish "Come-all-ye."
But the thing in Rourke that would have pleased any one was his ready grasp for the actualities of life—his full-fledged knowledge that work is the thing, not argument, or reports, or plans, but the direct accomplishment of something tangible, the thing itself. Thus, while I was working with him, at least nothing that might concern the clerical end of the labor could disturb him, but, if the sky fell, and eight thousand chief clerks threatened to march upon him in a body demanding reports and o.k.s, he would imperturbably make you wait until the work was done. Once, when I interrupted him to question him concerning some of these same wretched, pestering aftermaths of labor, concerning which he alone could answer, he shut me off with: "The reports! The reports! What good arre the reports! Ye make me sick. What have the reports to do with the work? If it wasn't fer the work, where would the reports be?" And I heartily echoed "Where?"
Another thing was his charming attitude toward his men, kindly and sweet for all his storming, that innate sense of something intimate and fatherly. He had a way of saying kindly things in a joking manner which touched them. When he arrived in the morning, for instance, it was always in the cheeriest way that he began. "Come, now, b'ys, ye have a good day's work before ye today. Get the shovels, Jimmie. Bring the line, Matt!" and then he would go below himself, if below it was, and there would be joy and peace until some obstacle to progress interfered. I might say in passing that Matt and Jimmie, his faithful henchmen, were each between forty and fifty, if they were a day—poor, gnarled, dusty, storm-tossed Italians who had come from heaven knows where, had endured God knows what, and were now rounding out a work-a-day existence under the sheltering wing of this same Rourke, a great and protecting power to them.
This same Matt was a funny little Italian, soft of voice and gentle of manner, whom Rourke liked very much, but with whom he loved to quarrel. He would go down in any hole where the latter was working, and almost invariably shortly after you would hear the most amazing uproar issuing therefrom, shouts of: "Put it here, I say! Put it here! Down with it! Here! Here! Jasus Christ, have ye no sinse at aall?"—coupled, of course, with occasional guttural growls from Matt, who was by no means in awe of his master and who feared no personal blows. The latter had been with Rourke for so long that he was not in the least overawed by his yelling and could afford to take such liberties. Occasionally, not always, Rourke would come climbing out of the hole, his face and neck fairly scarlet with heat, raging and shouting, "I'll get shut av ye! I'll have no more thruck with ye, ye blitherin', crazy loon! What good arre ye? What work can ye do? Naathin'! Naathin'! I'll be shut av ye now, an' thin maybe I'll have a little p'ace." Then he would dance around and threaten and growl until something else would take his attention, when he would quiet down and be as peaceful as ever. Somehow, I always felt that in spite of all the difficulties involved, he enjoyed these rows—must fight, in short, to be happy. Sometimes he would go home without saying a word to Matt, a conclusion which at first I imagined portended the end of the latter, but soon I came to know better. For the next morning Matt would reappear as unconcernedly as though nothing had happened, and Rourke would appear not to notice or remember.
Once, anent all this, I said to him, "Rourke, how many times have you threatened to discharge Matt in the last three years?"
"Shewer," he replied, with his ingratiating grin, "a man don't mane aall he says aall the time."
The most humorous of all his collection of workingmen, however, was the aforementioned Jimmie, a dark, mild-eyed, soft-spoken Calabrian, who had the shrewdness of a Machiavelli and the pertness of a crow. He lived in the same neighborhood as Rourke, far out in one of those small towns on the Harlem, sheltering so many Italians, for, like a hen with a brood of chicks, Rourke kept all his Italians gathered close about him. Jimmie, curiously, was the one who was always selected to run his family errands for him, a kind of valet to Rourke, as it were—selected for some merit I could never discover, certainly not one of speed. He was nevertheless constantly running here and there like an errand boy, his worn, dusty, baggy clothes making him look like a dilapidated bandit fresh from a sewer. On the job, however, no matter what it might be, Jimmie could never be induced to do real, hard work. He was always above it, or busy with something else. But as he was an expert cement-mixer and knew just how to load and unload the tool-car, two sinecures of sorts, nothing was ever said to him. If any one dared to reprove him, myself for instance (a mere interloper to Jimmie), he would reply: "Yeh! Yeh! I know-a my biz. I been now with Misha Rook fifteen year. I know-a my biz." If you made any complaint to Rourke, he would merely grin and say, "Ha! Jimmie's the sharp one," or perhaps, "I'll get ye yet, ye fox," but more than that nothing was ever done.
One day, however, Jimmie failed to comply with an extraordinary order of Rourke's, which, while it resulted in no real damage, produced a most laughable and yet characteristic scene. A strict rule of the company was that no opening of any kind into which a person might possibly step or fall should be left uncovered at any station during the approach, stay, or departure of any train scheduled to stop at that station. Rourke was well aware of this rule. He had a copy of it on file in his collection of circulars. In addition, he had especially delegated Jimmie to attend to this matter, a task which just suited the Italian as it gave him ample time to idle about and pretend to be watching. This it was which made the crime all the greater.
On this particular occasion Jimmie had failed to attend to this matter. We had been working on the platform at Williamsbridge, digging a pit for a coal-bin, when a train bearing the general foreman came along. The latter got off at the station especially to examine the work that had been done so far. When the train arrived there was the hole wide open with Rourke below shouting and gesticulating about something, and totally unconscious, of course, that his order had been neglected. The general foreman, who was, by the way, I believe, an admirer of Rourke, came forward, looked down, and said quietly: "This won't do, Rourke. You'll have to keep the work covered when a train is approaching. I've told you that before, you know."
Rourke looked up, so astonished and ashamed that he should have been put in such a position before his superior that he hardly knew what to say. I doubt if any one ever had a greater capacity for respecting his superiors, anyhow. Instead of trying to answer, he merely choked and began to shout for Jimmie, who came running, crying, as he always did, "What's da mat'? What's da mat'?"
"What's da mat'? What's da mat'?" mocked Rourke, fairly seething with a marvelous Irish fury. "What the devil do ye suppose is the mat'? What do ye mane be waalkin' away an' l'avin' the hole uncovered? Didn't I tell ye niver to l'ave a hole when a train's comin'? Didn't I tell ye to attind to that an' naathin' else? An' now what have ye been doin'? Be all the powers, what d'ye mane be l'avin' it? What else arre ye good fer? What d'ye mane be lettin' a thing like that happen, an' Mr. Wilson comin' along here, an' the hole open?"
He was as red as a beet, purple almost, perspiring, apoplectic. During all this tirade Mr. Wilson, a sad, dark, anæmic-looking person, troubled with acute indigestion, I fancy, stood by with an amused, kindly, and yet mock severe expression on his face. I am sure he did not wish to be severe.
Jimmie, dumbfounded, scarcely knew what to say. In the face of Rourke's rage and the foreman's presence, he did his best to remedy his error by covering the hole, at the same time stuttering something about going for a trowel.
"A trowel!" cried Rourke, glaring at him. "A trowel, ye h'athen ginny! What'd ye be doin' lookin' fer a trowel, an' a train comin' that close on ye it could 'a' knocked ye off the thrack? An' the hole open, an' Mr. Wilson right here! Is that what I told ye? Is that what I pay ye fer? Be all the saints! A trowel, is it? I'll trowel ye! I'll break yer h'athen Eyetalian skull, I will. Get thim boards on, an' don't let me ketch ye l'avin' such a place as that open again. I'll get shut av ye, ye blitherin' lunatic."
About an hour later, however, another train arrived, and, by reason of some intervening necessity and the idle, wandering mood of the Italian, the hole was open again. Jimmie was away behind the depot somewhere, smoking perhaps, and Rourke was, as usual, down in the hole. This time misfortune trebled itself, however, by bringing, not the general foreman, but the supervisor himself, a grave, quiet man, of whom Rourke stood in the greatest awe. He was so solid, so profound, so severe. I don't believe I ever saw him smile. He walked up to the hole, and looking reproachfully down, said: "Is this the way you leave your excavations, Rourke, when a train is coming? Don't you know better than to do a thing like that?"
"Jimmie!" shouted Rourke, leaping to the surface of the earth with a bound, "Jimmie! Now, be Jasus, where is that bla'guard Eyetalian? Didn't I tell him not to l'ave this place open!" and he began shoving the planks into place himself.
Jimmie, suddenly made aware of this new catastrophe, came running as fast as his short legs would carry him, scared almost out of his wits. He was as pale as a very dark and dirty Italian could be, and so wrought up that his facial expression changed involuntarily from moment to moment. Rourke was in a fairly murderous mood, only he was so excited and ashamed that he could not speak. Here was the supervisor, and here was himself, and conditions—necessity for order, etc.—would not permit him to kill the Italian in the former's presence. He could only choke and wait. To think that he should be made a mark of like this, and that in the face of his great supervisor! His face and neck were a beet-red, and his eyes flashed with anger. He merely glared at his recalcitrant henchman, as much as to say, "Wait!" When this train had departed and the dignified supervisor had been carried safely out of hearing he turned on Jimmie with all the fury of a masterful and excitable temper.
"So ye'll naht cover the hole, after me tellin' ye naht fifteen minutes ago, will ye?" he shouted. "Ye'll naht cover the hole! An' what'll ye be tellin' me ye was doin' now?"
"Waut fer the concrete," almost moaned Rourke, so great was his fury, his angry face shoved close to the Italian's own. "Waut fer the concrete, is it? It's a pity ye didn't fall into yer waut fer the concrete, ye damned nagur, an' drown! Waut fer the concrete, is it, an' me here, an' Mr. Mills steppin' off an' lookin' in on me, ye black-hearted son of a Eyetalian, ye! I'll waut fer the concrete ye! I'll crack yer blitherin' Eyetalian skull with a pick, I will! I'll chuck ye in yer waut fer the concrete till ye choke, ye flat-footed, leather-headed lunatic! I'll tache ye to waalk aaf an' l'ave the hole open, an' me in it. Now, be Jasus, get yer coat an' get out av this. Get—I'm tellin' ye! I'll have no more thruck with ye! I'll throuble no more with ye. Ye're no damned good. Out with ye! An' niver show me yer face again!" And he made a motion as if he would grab him and rend him limb from limb.
Jimmie, well aware of his dire position, was too clever, however, to let Rourke seize him. During all this conversation he had been slowly backing away, always safely beyond Rourke's reach, and now ran—an amazing feat for him. He had evidently been through many such scenes before. He retreated first behind the depot, and then when Rourke had gone to work once more down in his hole, came back and took a safe position on guard over the hitherto sadly neglected opening. When the next train came he was there to shove the boards over before it neared the station, and nothing more was said about the matter. Rourke did not appear to notice him. He did not even seem to see that he was there. The next morning, however, when the latter came to work as usual, it was, "Come, Matt! Come, Jimmie!" just as if nothing had happened. I was never more astonished in my life.
An incident, even more ridiculous, but illustrative of the atmosphere in which Rourke dwelt, occurred at Highbridge one frosty October Sunday morning, where because of seepage from a hill which threatened to undermine some tracks, Rourke was ordered to hurry and build a drain—a thing which, because the order came on Saturday afternoon, required Sunday labor, a most unusual thing in his case. But in spite of the order, Rourke, who was a good Catholic, felt impelled before coming to go to at least early mass, and in addition—a regular Sunday practice with him, I presume—to put on a long-skirted Prince Albert coat, which I had never seen before and which lent to his stocky figure some amusing lines. It was really too tight, having been worn, I presume, every Sunday regularly since his wedding day. In addition, he had donned a brown derby hat which, to me at least, gave him a most unfamiliar look.
I, being curious more than anything else and wishing to be out of doors as much as possible, also went up, arriving on the scene about nine. Rourke did not arrive until ten. In the meantime, I proceeded to build myself a fire on the dock, for we were alongside the Harlem River and a brisk wind was blowing. Then Rourke came, fresh from church, smiling and genial, in the most cheerful Sunday-go-to-meeting frame of mind, but plainly a little conscious of his grand garb.
"My," I said, surveying him, "you look fine. I never saw you dressed up before."
"L'ave aaf with yer taalk," he replied. "I know well enough how I look—good enough."
Then he bestirred himself about the task of examining what had been done so far. But I could see, in spite of all the busy assurance with which he worked, that he was still highly conscious of his clothes and a little disturbed by what I or others might think. His every-day garb plainly suited his mood much better.
Everything went smoothly until noon, not a cloud in the sky, when, looking across the tracks at that hour, I beheld coming toward us with more or less uncertain step another individual, stocky of figure and evidently bent on seeing Rourke—an Irishman as large as Rourke, younger, and, if anything, considerably coarser in fiber. He was very red-faced, smooth shaven, with a black derby hat pulled down over his eyes and wearing a somewhat faded tight-fitting brown suit. He was drunk, or nearly so, that was plain from the first. From the moment Rourke beheld him he seemed beside himself with anger or irritation. His expression changed completely and he began to swell, as was customary with him when he was angry, as though suffering from an internal eruption of some kind.
Regardless of his speculations on this score, the stranger picked his way across the tracks and came directly to him, his face and manner indicating no particularly friendly frame of mind.
"Maybe ye'll be lettin' me have that money now," he began instanter, and when Rourke made no reply, merely staring at him, he added, "I'll be waantin' to know now, when it is ye're goin' to give me the rest av me time fer that Scarborough job. I've been waitin' long enough."
Rourke stirred irritably and aggressively before he spoke. He seemed greatly put out, shamed, to think that the man should come here so, especially on this peaceful Sabbath morning.
"I've tould ye before," he replied defiantly after a time, "that ye've had aall ye earned, an' more. Ye left me without finishin' yer work, an' ye'll get no more time from me. If ye waant more, go down to the ahffice an' see if they'll give it to ye. I have no money fer ye here," and he resumed a comfortable position before the fire, his hands behind his back.
"It's siven dollars ye still owe me," returned the other, ignoring Rourke's reply, "an' I waant it now."
"Well, ye'll naht get it," replied my boss. "I've naathin' fer ye, I'm tellin' ye. I owe ye naathin'."
"Is that so?" returned the other. "Well, we'll see about that. Ye'll be after givin' it to me, er I'll get it out of ye somehow. It's naht goin' to be ch'ated out av me money I am."
"I'm owin' ye naathin'," insisted Rourke. "Ye may as well go away from here. Ye'll get naathin'. If ye waant anything more, go an' see the ahffice," and now he strode away to where the Italians were, ignoring the stranger completely and muttering something about his being drunk. The latter followed him, however, over to where he stood, and continued the dispute. Rourke ignored him as much as possible, only exclaiming once, "L'ave me be, man. Ye're drunk."
"I'm naht drunk," returned the other. "Once an' fer all now, I'm askin' ye, arre ye goin' to give me that money?"
"Belave me," said the stranger, "I'll get it out av ye somehow," but for the moment he made no move, merely hanging about in an uncertain way. He seemed to have no definite plan for collecting the money, or if he had he had by now abandoned it.
Without paying any more attention to him, Rourke, still very irritated and defiant, returned to the fire. He tried to appear calm and indifferent, but the ex-workman, a non-union mason, I judged, followed after, standing before him and staring in the defiant, irritating way a drunken man will, not quite able to make up his mind what else to do. Presently Rourke, more to relieve the tedium of an embarrassing situation than anything else (a number of accusatory remarks having been passed), turned and began poking at the blaze, finally bending over to lay on a stick of wood. On the instant, and as if seized by sudden inspiration, whether because the tails of Rourke's long coat hung out in a most provoking fashion and suggested the thing that followed or not, I don't know, but now the red-faced intruder jumped forward, and seizing them in a most nimble and yet vigorous clutch, gave an amazing yank, which severed them straight up the back, from seat to nape, at the same time exclaiming:
"Ye'll naht pay me, will ye? Ye'll naht, will ye?"
On the instant a tremendous change came over the scene. It was as swift as stage play. Instantly Rourke was upright and faced about, shouting, "Now, be gob, ye've torn me coat, have ye! Now I'll tache ye! Now I'll show ye! Wait! Get ready, now. Now I'll fix ye, ye drunken, thavin' loafer," and at the same time he began to move upon the enemy in a kind of rhythmic, cryptic circle (some law governing anger and emotion, I presume), the while his hands opened and shut and his eyes looked as though they would be veiled completely by his narrowing lids. At the same time the stranger, apparently seeing his danger, began backing and circling in the same way around Rourke, as well as around the fire, until it looked as though they were performing a war dance. Round and round they went like two Hopi bucks or Zulu warriors, their faces displaying the most murderous cunning and intention to slay—only, instead of feathers and beads, they had on their negligible best. All the while Rourke was calling, "Come on, now! Get ready, now! I'll show ye, now! I'll fix ye, now! It's me coat ye'll rip, is it? Come on, now! Get ready! Make yerself ready! I'm goin' to give ye the lickin' av yer life! Come on, now! Come on, now! Come on, now!"
It was as though each had been secreted from the other and had to be sought out in some mysterious manner and in a circle. In spite of the feeling of distress that an impending struggle of this kind gives one, I could not help noting the comic condition of Rourke's back—the long coat beautifully ripped straight up the back, its ends fluttering in the wind like fans, and exposing his waistcoat and Sunday boiled white shirt—and laying up a laugh for the future. It was too ridiculous. The stranger had a most impressive and yet absurd air of drunken sternness written in his face, a do-or-die look.
Whether anything serious would really have happened I was never permitted to learn, for now, in addition to myself and the Italians, all of them excited and ready to defend their lord and master, some passengers from the nearby station and the street above as well as a foreman of a section gang helping at this same task, a great hulking brute of a man who looked quite able to handle both Rourke and his opponent at one and the same time, came forward and joined in this excited circle. Considerable effort was made on the part of the latter to learn just what the trouble was, after which the big foreman interposed with:
"What's the trouble here? Come, now! What's all this row, Rourke? Ye wouldn't fight here, would ye? Have him arristed, er go to his home—ye say ye know him—but don't be fightin' here. Supposin' waan av the bosses should be comin' along now?" and at the same time he interposed his great bulk between the two.
Rourke, quieted some by this interruption but still sputtering with rage and disgrace, shouted, "Lookit me coat! Lookit what he done to me coat! See what he done to me coat! Man alive, d'ye think I'm goin' to stand fer the likes av that? It's naht me that can be waalked on by a loafer like that—an' me payin' him more than ever he was worth, an' him waalkin' aaf an' l'avin' the job half done. I'll fix him this time. I'll show him. I'll tache him to be comin' around an' disturbin' a man when he's at his work. I'll fix him now," and once more he began to move. But the great foreman was not so easily to be disposed of.
"Well then, let's caall the police," he argued in a highly conciliatory mood. "Ye can't be fightin' him here. Sure, ye don't waant to do that. What'll the chafe think? What is it ye'll think av yerself?"
At the same time he turned to find the intruder and demand to know what he meant by it, but the latter had already decamped. Seeing the crowd that had and was gathering, and that he was likely to encounter more forms of trouble than he had anticipated, he had started down the track toward Mott Haven.
"I'll fix ye!" Rourke shouted when he saw him going. "Ye'll pay fer this. I'll have ye arristed. Wait! Ye'll naht get aaf so aisy this time."
But just the same the storm was over for the present, anyhow, the man gone, and in a little while Rourke left for his home at Mount Vernon to repair his tattered condition. I never saw a man so crestfallen, nor one more determined to "have the laa on him" in my life. Afterwards, when I inquired very cautiously what he had done about it—this was a week or two later—he replied, "Shewer, what can ye do with a loafer like that? He has no money, an' lockin' him up won't help his wife an' children any."
Thus ended a perfect scene out of Kilkenny.
It was not so very long after I arrived that Rourke began to tell me of a building which the company was going to erect in Mott Haven Yard, one of its great switching centers. It was to be an important affair, according to him, sixty by two hundred feet in breadth and length, of brick and stone, and was to be built under a time limit of three months, an arrangement by which the company hoped to find out how satisfactorily it could do work for itself rather than by outside contract, which it was always hoping to avoid. From his manner and conversation, I judged that Rourke was eager to get this job, for he had been a contractor of some ability in his day before he ever went to work for the company, and felt, I am sure, that fate had done him an injustice in not allowing him to remain one. In addition, he felt a little above the odds and ends of masonry that he was now called on to do, where formerly he had done so much more important work. He was eager to be a real foreman once more, a big one, and to show the company that he could erect this building and thus make a little place for himself in the latter's good graces, although to what end I could not quite make out. He would never have made a suitable general foreman. At the same time, he was a little afraid of the clerical details, those terrible nightmares of reports, o.k.s and the like.
"How arre ye feelin', Teddy, b'y?" he often inquired of me during this period, with a greater show of interest in my troublesome health than ever before. I talked of leaving, I suppose, from time to time because sheer financial necessity was about to compel it.
"Fine, Rourke," I would say, "never better. I'm feeling better every day."
"That's good. Ye're the right man in the right place now. If ye was to sthay a year er two at this work it would be the makin' av ye. Ye're too thin. Ye need more chist," and he would tap my bony chest in a kindly manner. "I niver have a sick day, meself."
"That's right, Rourke," I replied pleasantly, feeling keenly the need of staying by so wonderful a lamp of health. "I intend to stick at it as long as I can."
"Ye ought to; it'll do ye good. If we get the new buildin' to build, it'll be better yet for ye. Ye'll have plenty to do there to relave yer mind."
"Relieve, indeed!" I thought, but I did not say so. On the contrary I felt so much sympathy for this lusty Irishman and his reasonable ambitions that I desired to help him, and urged him to get it. I suggested indirectly that I would see him through, which touched him greatly. He was a grateful creature in his way, but so excitable and so helplessly self-reliant that there was no way of aiding him without doing it in a secret or rather self-effacing manner. He would have much preferred to struggle along alone and fail, though I doubt whether real failure could have come to Rourke so essentially capable was he.
In another three weeks the work was really given him to do, and then began one of the finest exhibitions of Irish domination and self-sufficiency that I have ever witnessed. We moved to Mott Haven Yard, a great network of tracks and buildings, in the center of which this new building was to be erected. Rourke was given a large force of men, whom he fairly gloried in bossing. He had as many as forty Italians, to say nothing of a number of pseudo-carpenters and masons (not those shrewd hawks clever enough to belong to the union, but wasters and failures of another type) who did the preliminary work of digging for the foundation, etc. Handling these, Rourke was in his element. He loved to see so much brisk work going on. He would trot to and fro about the place, beaming in the most angelic fashion, and shouting orders that could be heard all over the neighborhood. It was delicious to watch him. At times he would stand by the long trenches where the men were digging for the foundation, a great line of them, their backs bent over their work, and rub his hands in pleasingly human satisfaction, saying, "We're goin' along fine, Teddy. I can jist see me way to the top av the buildin'," and then he would proceed to harass and annoy his men out of pure exuberance of spirits.
"Ye waant to dig it so, man," or, "Ye don't handle yer pick right; can't ye see that? Hold it this way." Sometimes he would get down in the trench and demonstrate just how it was to be done, a thing which greatly amused some of the workmen. Frequently he would exhibit to me little tricks or knacks of his trade, such as throwing a trowel ten feet so that it would stick in a piece of wood; turning a shovel over with a lump of dirt on it and not dropping the lump, and similar simple acts, always adding, "Ye'll niver be a mason till ye can do that."
When he was tired of fussing with the men outside he would come around to the little wooden shed, where I was keeping the mass of orders and reports in shape and getting his material ready for him, and look over the papers in the most knowing manner. When he had satisfied himself that everything was going right, he would exclaim, "Ye're jist the b'y fer the place, Teddy. Ye'd made a good bookkeeper. If ever I get to be Prisident, I'll make ye me Sicretary av State."
But the thing which really interested and enthralled Rourke was the coming of the masons—those hardy buccaneers of the laboring world who come and go as they please, asking no favors and brooking no interference. Plainly he envied them their reckless independence at the same time that he desired to control their labor in his favor—a task worthy of the shrewdest diplomat. Never in my life have I seen such a gay, ruthless, inconsiderate point of view as these same union masons represented, a most astounding lot. They were—are, I suppose I should say—our modern buccaneers and Captain Kidds of the laboring world, demanding, if you please, their six a day, starting and stopping almost when they please, doing just as little as they dare and yet face their own decaying conscience, dropping any task at the most critical and dangerous point, and in other ways rejoicing in and disporting themselves in such a way as to annoy the representatives of any corporation great or small that suffered the sad compulsion of employing them. Seriously, I am not against union laborers. I like them. They spell rude, blazing life. But when you have to deal with them!
Plainly, Rourke anticipated endless rows. Their coming promised him the opportunity he inmostly desired, I suppose, of once more fussing and fuming with real, strong, determined and pugnacious men like himself, who would not take his onslaughts tamely but would fight him back, as he wished strong men to do. He was never weary of talking of them.
"Wait till we have thirty er forty av thim on the line," he once observed to me in connection with them, "every man layin' his six hundred bricks a day, er takin' aaf his apron! Thim's the times ye'll see what excitement manes, me b'y. Thim's the times."
"What'll I see, Rourke?" I asked interestedly.
"Throuble enough. Shewer, they're no crapin' Eyetalians, that'll let ye taalk to thim as ye pl'ase. Indade not. Ye'll have to fight with them fellies."
"Well, that's a queer state of affairs," I remarked, and then added, "Do you think you can handle them, Rourke?"
"Handle thim!" he exclaimed, his glorious wrath kindling in anticipation of a possible conflict. "Handle thim, an' the likes av a thousand av thim! I know them aall, every waan av thim, an' their thricks. It's naht foolin' me they'll be. But, me b'y," he added instructively, "it's a fine job ye'll have runnin' down to the ahffice gettin' their time." (This is the railroad man's expression for money due, or wages.) "Ye'll have plenty av that to do, I'm tellin' ye."
"You don't mean to say that you're going to discharge them, Rourke, do you?" I asked.
"Shewer!" he exclaimed authoritatively. "Why shouldn't I? They're jist the same as other min. Why shouldn't I?" Then he added, after a pause, "But it's thim that'll be comin' to me askin' fer their time instid av me givin' it to thim, niver fear. They're not the kind that'll let ye taalk back to thim. If their work don't suit ye, it's 'give me me time.' Wait till they'll be comin' round half drunk in the mornin', an' not feelin' just right. Thim's the times ye'll find out what masons arre made av, me b'y."
I confess this probability did not seem as brilliant to me as it did to him, but it had its humor. I expressed wonder that he would hire them if they were such a bad lot.
"Where else will ye get min?" he demanded to know. "The unions have the best, an' the most av thim. Thim outside fellies don't amount to much. They're aall pore, crapin' creatures. If it wasn't fer the railroad bein' against the union I wouldn't have thim at aall, and besides," he added thoughtfully, and with a keen show of feeling for their point of view, "they have a right to do as they pl'ase. Shewer, it's no common workmen they arre. They can lay their eight hundred bricks a day, if they will, an' no advice from any waan. If ye was in their place ye'd do the same. There's no sinse in allowin' another man to waalk on ye whin ye can get another job. I don't blame thim. I was a mason wanst meself."
"You don't mean to say that you acted as you say these men are going to act?"
"Well, I shouldn't think you'd be very proud of it."
"I have me rights," he declared, flaring up. "What kind av a man is it that'll let himself be waalked on? There's no sinse in it. It's naht natchral. It's naht intinded that it should be so."
"Very well," I said, smoothing the whole thing over, and so that ended.
Well, the masons came, and a fine lot of pirates they surely were. Such independence! Such defiance! Such feverish punctilio in regard to their rights and what forms and procedures they were entitled to! I stared in amazement. For the most part they were hale, healthy, industrious looking creatures, but so obstreperously conscious of their own rights, and so proud of their skill as masons, that there was no living with them. Really, they would have tried the patience of a saint, let alone a healthy, contentious Irish foreman-mason. "First off," as the railroad men used to say, they wanted to know whether there were any non-union men on the job, and if so, would they be discharged instanter?—if not, no work—a situation which gave Rourke several splendid opportunities for altercations, which he hastened to improve, although the non-union men went, of course. Then they wanted to know when, where, and how they were to get their money, whether on demand at any time they chose, and this led to more trouble, since the railroad paid only once a month. However, this was adjusted by a special arrangement being made whereby the building department stood ready to pay them instantly on demand, only I had to run down to the division office each time and get their pay for them at any time that they came to ask for it! Then came an argument (or many of them) as to the number of bricks they were to lay an hour; the number of men they were to carry on one line, or wall; the length of time they were supposed to work, or had worked, or would work—all of which was pure food and drink to Rourke. He was in his element at last, shouting, gesticulating, demanding that they leave or go to——. After all these things had been adjusted, however, they finally consented to go to work, and then of course the work flew. It was a grand scene, really inspiring—forty or fifty masons on the line, perhaps half as many helpers or mixers, the Italians carrying bricks, and a score of carpenters now arriving under another foreman to set the beams and lay the joists as the walls rose upward.
Rourke was about all the time now, arguing and gesticulating with this man or that, fighting with this one or the other, and calling always to some mason or other to "come down" and get his "time." "Come down! Come down!" I would hear, and then would see him rushing for the office, a defiant and even threatening mason at his heels; Rourke demanding that I make out a time-check at once for the latter and go down to the "ahffice" and get the money, the while the mason hung about attempting to seduce other men to a similar point of view. Once in a while, but only on rare occasions, Rourke would patch up a truce with a man. As a rule, the mason was only too eager to leave and spend the money thus far earned, while Rourke was curiously indifferent as to whether he went or stayed. "'Tis to drink he waants," he would declare amusedly. To me it was all like a scene out of comic opera.
Toward the last, however, a natural calm set in, the result no doubt of weariness and a sense of surfeit, which sent the building forward apace. During this time Rourke was to be seen walking defiantly up and down the upper scaffolding of the steadily rising walls, or down below on the ground in front of his men, his hands behind his back, his face screwed into a quizzical expression, his whole body bearing a look of bristling content and pugnacity which was too delicious for words. Since things were going especially well he could not say much, but still he could look his contentiousness, and did. Even now he would occasionally manage to pick a quarrel with some lusty mason or other, which resulted in the customary descent to the office, but not often.
But one cold December day, about three weeks later, when I was just about to announce that I could no longer delay my departure, seeing that my health was now as good, or nearly so, as my purse was lean, and that, whether I would or no, I must arrange to make more money, that a most dreadful accident occurred. It appeared that Rourke and a number of Italians, including Matt and Jimmie, were down in the main room of the building, now fast nearing completion, when the boiler of the hoisting engine, which had been placed inside the building and just at the juncture of three walls, blew up and knocked out this wall and the joists of the second and third floors loose, thus precipitating all of fifteen thousand bricks, which had been placed on the third floor, into this room below. For a few moments there had been a veritable hurricane of bricks and falling timber; and then, when it was over, it was found that the mighty Rourke and five Italians were embedded in or under them, and all but Jimmie more or less seriously injured or killed. Two Italians were killed outright. A third died later. Rourke, in particular, was unfortunately placed and terribly injured. His body from the waist down was completely buried by a pile of bricks, and across his shoulder lay a great joist pressing where it had struck him, and cutting his neck and ear. He was a pathetic sight when we entered, bleeding and pain-wrenched yet grim and undaunted, as one might have expected.
"I'm tight fast, me lad," he said when he could speak. "It's me legs that's caught, not me body. But give a hand to the min, there. The Eyetalians are underneath."
Disregarding his suggestion, however, we began working about him, every man throwing away bricks like a machine; but he would not have it.
"'Tind to the min!" he insisted with all of his old firmness. "The Eyetalians are under there—Matt an' Jimmie. Can't ye see that I'll be all right till ye get thim out? Come, look after the min!"
We fell to this end of the work, although by now others had arrived, and soon there was a great crowd assisting—men coming from the yard and the machine shop. Although embedded in this mass of material and most severely injured, there was no gainsaying him, and he still insisted on directing us as best he could. But now he was so picturesque, so much nobler, really, than he had been in his healthier, uninjured days. A fabled giant, he seemed to me, half-god, half-man, composed in part of flesh, in part of brick and stone, gazing down on our earthly efforts with the eye of a demi-god.
"Come, now—get the j'ists from aaf the end, there. Take the bricks away from that man. Can't ye see? There's where his head is—there. There! Jasus Christ—theyer!"
You would have thought we were Italians ourselves, poor wisps of nothing, not his rescuers, but slaves, compelled to do his lordly bidding.
After a time, however, we managed to release him and all his five helpers—two dead, as I say, and Matt badly cut about the head and seriously injured, while Jimmie, the imperturbable, was but little the worse for a brick mark on one shoulder. He was more or less frightened, of course, and comic to look at, even in this dread situation. "Big-a smash," he exclaimed when he recovered himself. "Like-a da worl' fall. Misha Rook! Misha Rook! Where Misha Rook?"
"Here I am, ye Eyetalian scalawag," exclaimed the unyielding Rourke genially, who was still partially embedded when Jimmie was released. There was, however, a touch of sorrow in his voice as he added weakly, "Arre ye hurted much?"
"No, Misha Rook. Help Misha Rook," replied Jimmie, grabbing at bricks himself, and so the rescue work of "Rook" went on.
Finally he was released, although not without deprecating our efforts the while (this wonderful and exceptional fuss over him), and exclaiming at one point as we tugged at joists and beams rather frantically, "Take yer time. Take yer time. I'm naht so bad fixed as aall that. Take yer time. Get that board out o' the way there, Jimmie."
But he was badly "fixed," and "hurted" unto death also, as we now found, and as he insisted he was not. His hip was severely crushed by the timbers and his legs broken, as well as his internal organs disarranged, although we did not know how badly at the time. Only after we had removed all the weight did he collapse and perhaps personally realize how serious was his plight. He was laid on a canvas tarpaulin brought by the yard-master and spread on the chip-strewn ground, while the doctors from two ambulances worked over him. While they were examining his wounds he took a critical and quizzical interest in what they were doing, and offered one or two humorous suggestions. Finally, when they were ready to move him he asked how he was, and on being told that he was all right, looked curiously about until he caught my eye. I could see that he realized how critical it was with him.
"I'd like to see a priest, Teddy," he whispered, "and, if ye don't mind, I'd like ye to go up to Mount Vernon an' tell me wife. They'll be after telegraphin' her if ye don't. Break it aisy, if ye will. Don't let 'er think there's anything serious. There's no need av it. I'm naht hurted so bad as aall that."
I promised, and the next moment one of the doctors shot a spray of cocaine into his hip to relieve what he knew must be his dreadful pain. A few moments later he lost consciousness, after which I left him to the care of the hospital authorities and hurried away to send the priest and to tell his wife.
For a week thereafter he lingered in a very serious condition and finally died, blood-poisoning having set in. I saw him at the hospital a day or two before, and, trying to sympathize with his condition, I frequently spoke of what I deemed the dreadful uncertainty of life and the seeming carelessness of the engineer in charge of the hoisting engine. He, however, had no complaint to make.
"Ye must expect thim things," was his only comment. "Ye can't aalways expect to go unhurted. I niver lost a man before, nor had one come to haarm. 'Tis the way av things, ye see."
Mighty Rourke! You would have thought the whole Italian population of Mount Vernon knew and loved him, the way they turned out at his funeral. It was a state affair for most of them, and they came in scores, packing the little brick church at which he was accustomed to worship full to overflowing. Matt was there, bandaged and sore, but sorrowful; and Jimmie, artful and scheming in the past, but now thoroughly subdued. He was all sorrow, and sniveled and blubbered and wept hot, blinding tears through the dark, leathery fingers of his hands.
"Misha Rook! Misha Rook!" I heard him say, as they bore the body in; and when they carried it out of the church, he followed, head down. As they lowered it to the grave he was inconsolable.
"Misha Rook! Misha Rook! I work-a for him fifteen year!"